Have you ever wanted to be a train conductor? To spend hours on the open road watching as towns and fields pass you by? No? Neither did I before playing Train Simulator 2014.
Train Simulator 2014 is a beautiful game that casts you as a train conductor, with no training but more on that in a bit, at the helm of some of the world's most luxurious and biggest trains. Most of your time is spent in the conductor's booth of the train watching as the world passes you in all its beauty. The trains are obviously at the forefront of this game and the amount of detail in the is impressive. The conductors booth is a flurry of lights, buttons, and screens that probably won't make any sense to you, me, or anyone not adamantly interested in trains.
Outside of the detailed beauty of the trains there's little else in the game. There's no story. You're not on some big adventure and you have no mission save the task of picking up passengers at one station and dropping them off at the next. The sounds of the game follow the same suit. There's not many of them. You hear the constant chugging of the train on the tracks but other than that there's really nothing. You can blow the iconic train horn or ring a bell but these are gimmicks that grow old really quickly.
The game relies on you to make your own story while you’re playing, but even this is severely limited. The base version of the game, which runs you $40 usd., get’s you two trains, three maps, and about seven different scenarios which range from picking up passengers and dropping them off, to picking up passengers and dropping them off at night, and pick up passengers and drop them off in the snow. There’s also a free roam and custom scenarios but they have their own problems. In free roam there are absolutely no objectives. You just conduct your train all around aimlessly basking in the nature around you. Custom scenarios require you to have additional trains and maps not included the base purchase. This is where the game hits it’s lowest. One train, just the train, can cost you anywhere from $20 all the way to $40. For just a train. They also sell additional maps which also range $40 and up. I completely understand selling DLC, I don’t like it but I understand it, but $40 for a train is completely unacceptable.
On the subject of gameplay, the “career” mode is the main focus here. As mentioned before you are simply picking up passengers at one station and dropping them off at another, but in career you earn points and experience which make you level up as a conductor. You earn points by arriving and departing your stations on time and lose points by having “emergencies.” driving over the speed limit, and being late. The problem here is that the game throws you in with no explanation at all. The “tutorial” explains how to move forward, backwards, and stop, as well as explaining the speed limit and how to read the “map” at the bottom of the HUD. Beyond that, it doesn't offer any assistance. So when you’re cruising along the rails and suddenly get an “emergency brake” because the barometric pressure of your brake pipes is too high, you’re left watching your score drop faster than Skrillex drops bass, struggling to figure out what the emergency even means and how to fix it.
While I’m all for difficulty in games and making the gamer try to figure things out I’m fairly sure you have to have extensive training before you’re allowed to operate a train. The company owning these trains were evidently short staffed and grabbed the first person they saw on the street to conduct. I ran into a few other problems while playing like the speed suddenly, and without any indication, dropping from 140mph to 60 mph causing me to lose hundreds of points until I was under the speed limit again. Usually the “map,” which is really just a straight line with numbers on it, will give you an indication when the speed limit is going to change but in this instance, it failed to display. Another problem I ran into, and this could simply be me being picky, but I lost 473 points, out of 1000 possible, for being three minutes late. I’ve rode on very few trains in my life, five in total, and not a single one of them was on time by their schedule so losing half of my possible score for being minutes late seemed excessive.
This “game,” if it can really be called that, is a niche one. It will only appeal to a very select few train enthusiasts and so for those folks I'd recommend this as a nice entry into the world of train conducting. For everyone else save yourself some time, money and frustration and just say no.